Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sherrod fallout

Well, now that the Shirley Sherrod story has played out (see my earlier post), everyone seems to agree that this ought to be a "teachable moment" about racism. That Americans ought not to shy away from talking about race. That we need to come together as a nation. But how? Where? There is a dearth of concrete suggestions, but here's a modest one.

While focusing on better education about racism in schools is the right thing to do, I don't believe that the youth in this country is the correct demographic to go after - it's those old enough to know better, all the way to the old fogeys that have problems with this stuff. And, since we're always blaming the media for being too gullible, why not enlist them to assist? I'm not talking about documentaries or anything with racism as the primary topic - that's all too easy for the intended audience to ignore. What I'm talking about is the popular media: blockbuster movies, TV sitcoms, heavily-trafficked websites, trashy magazines that are (currently) devoid of actual content, tabloids, comic books, etc. And I'm not suggesting they take a heavy hand by making the topic "in-your-face." Or, as many have suggested, have more sitcoms starring black actors. That's just tokenism. All they need do is become unafraid to, for example, make reference to racial differences, even joke about it where appropriate. Right now, it strikes me, there is a distinct reluctance to even vaguely touch on racism.

We need to make Joe Six-Pack (and the plumber!) able to comfortably talk about this around the proverbial water-cooler. Not difficult, not expensive, not breathtaking, not revolutionary - just a simple way to remove the verboten nature of the topic.

And, while we're at it, how about handling other forms of bigotry the same way? Racism is but one "-ism." Think about it. Please.

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